Presenting the Gear-Eye View
A revolution has taken place in the last few years in terms of the volume of data that can be transmitted from gear-mounted sensors back to the catching vessel, although there are still significant natural limitations to this and companies developing marine electronics are competing for bandwidth, according to Axel Óskarsson at Icelandic electronics company Marport.
“At Marport we introduced new signal reception technology in 2012 that increased the amount of data that could be sent by a factor ten. This is out Software Defined Sensor (SDS) technology and since this was made available from the Marport M4 receivers onwards, capacity has been there to receive data from a hundred sensor channels,” he said, commenting that today it is more applicable to talk about channels than individual sensors, now that each Marport sensor can measure more than one parameter.
“The channels start with a mechanical measurement of a length of twine, which is the conventional codend sensor that is triggered as the netting is stretched by the weight of fish in the bag. The other parameters that can be measured are temperature, depth, pitch & roll, distances such as between wingtips or doors, flow through the gear including current direction, salinity. oxygen level and water turbidity. These can be packaged together according to the customers needs, with up to seven channels in each sensor,” he said, and commented that the greatest step forward was the capacity to receive data from ten wireless sensors at a time.
“These have all kinds of names among users, but the reality is that these are wireless echo sounders with additional capabilities, and the placement on the gear is where the name of each sensor comes from.”
He said that this additional capacity has been a significant step forward, as for thirty years each sensor needed to be paired with a receiver, and a great deal has changed since the first wireless headline sensors from Japan saw the light of day around forty years ago.
“By making it possible to receive data from ten sensors at once, a great possibilities have been opened up for monitoring fishing gear, plus information is now updated at one second intervals, instead of the 20 to 30 second intervals we used to work with, and added that from 2012 onwards a range of new devices were introduced, starting with the Door Sounder that was first made available in 2012, showing the precise height of each trawl door over the seabed, and followed by Marport’s Speed Explorer in 2014, combining the functions of the headline sounder and the current flow meter, and incorporating temperature, depth and pitch & roll information.
“In 2015 we introduced the Catch Explorer, a combined catch sensor and trawl sounder that shows the codend filling. This is rigged to a the top panel of a codend and the conventional trigger mechanism is there to indicate a certain catch level, plus the sounder function allows the skipper to monitor the codend’s filling rate, as well as having temperature, depth and pitch & roll functions,” he said.
These were followed the next year by the Seine Explorer, designed specifically for purse seiners with a heavily protected sensor made to be shackled to the leadline, transmitting back to the catching vessel the distance to the seabed as well as providing real-time data on the gear’s sinking speed. The Bottom Explorer was launched alongside the Seine Explorer, designed as a down sounder fitted to a trawl’s footrope, providing a wheelhouse readout of distance to the seabed.
“There’s no indication of any end to this development, and the old-style sensors are rapidly giving way to a variety of ‘gear-eye-view’ systems that show significantly more useful and detailed data,” Axel Óskarsson said.
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